Snow White with the Red Hair – Episode 22: “The Spring of Intent”

A retainer’s work is never done.

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We return to the palace and our characters’ return to their daily lives, which means navigating relationships professional and personal and trying to find that tricky balance between duty and desire. Fortunately Shirayuki and Zen have not only each other, but a bevy of friends and coworkers to support them in their journey–including one new ally who could make all the difference in turning their quiet fairy tale into a political reality.

Obligatory Scenery Porn: "Move, Obi, you're blockin' the view!" Edition

Obligatory Scenery Porn: “Move, Obi, you’re blockin’ the view!” Edition

This post was and continues to be hampered by difficulties both technical and personal (nothing serious, just a lot of little things piling up at once), so forgive me if I’m a bit discombobulated here. “Spring of Intent” continues last week’s trend of upping the coziness–and, I’m happy to say, the comedy. While Snow White has always had its humorous moments, now that it’s cast has gone from being coworkers and acquaintances to proper friends, they’re really able to relax and just kind of goof off around each other. From Kiki’s deadpan to Obi’s good-natured teasing to Zen’s stink-eye, I’ve found myself enjoying this show as much for its comedic timing as its understated interactions as of late.

That sense of increasing camaraderie permeates just about every scene. It’s most notable with Izana, who not only provides Zen with a way to avoid leading on a bunch of people he has no intention of marrying, but also accepts ShiraZen’s relationship and promises to be their “ally.” Izana is noticeably kinder and more honest this week–he smiles openly and meets Zen head-on, as an equal instead of an underling or kid sibling. I think Zen brought that change about when he confronted his brother before leaving for Tanbarun, showing respect but never subservience. Izana is shrewd and inscrutable, but he really does love his brother, and this week he finally lets Zen see that, too.

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That camaraderie is also present in the interactions between Shirayuki and Ryu, our trio of retainers, and at Zen and Kiki’s “marriage interview.” Compare the distance and formal stances in Kiki’s flashback (great to see hints of a proper personal story for her, by the way) to their relaxed poses in the present timeline. While Kiki might insist that no one around her has “changed” (neither ShiraZen last week nor Mitsuhide this week), there’s no question their relationships have, and those in turn have affected them all in small but important ways, whether that’s an extra boost of confidence or just the ability to smile and relax when they’re around each other.

In a way, it’s this same closeness and loyalty that cause the closest thing to an internal conflict this week, as Obi hides the truth from Shirayuki because he doesn’t want to betray Kiki and Zen’s trust. Obi is still learning how to be a part of a community, so it makes sense that he’d struggle to know when to be honest and when to keep mum. It all works out, of course, because Zen has earned Shirayuki’s trust, largely because he himself is so good about openly communicating with her.

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Speaking of communication, I thought we’d slide past the usual visual chatter and instead dissect a couple conversations, as they demonstrate why I adore this show so darn much and why I think it’s quietly more progressive than anyone (self included) gives it credit for. The first is an amusing bit of dialogue between Zen and Kiki about dresses and weaponry that’s a two-part denial of expectations.

Kiki says she doesn’t like dresses, not because she sees them as “girly” or “lesser,” but for practical reasons: She wants to wear a sword, and dresses aren’t designed for that. Oh, but don’t worry–she’s still got a knife on her. It’s the kind of line that would normally provoke a “Whoa, scary” comical reaction from the other person (a jab and a judgment about militaristic/aggressive women), but Zen just smiles and says that makes her “reliable” (echoing the Chief’s praise of Shirayuki and Ryu, by the way).

As long as they’re not hurting anyone, Snow White never judges people for the lives they lead. It doesn’t thumb its nose at dresses or a lack of martial skill (Shirayuki), nor does it mock Kiki for her lack of traditional femininity; instead, it respects each of their choices as equally valid and important ones, allowing them to coexist without having to compete. And in a story targeted at young girls, that’s a very important thing to see.

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The other conversation is, naturally, between our ever-delightful central pairing. As soon as Zen realizes the misunderstanding, he rushes out the door to find Shirayuki. She’s concerned about the marriage interview, no question, but when she tells Zen it “didn’t bother her,” she isn’t referring to the interview itself but to the reason he apologizes: He’s sorry it “seemed he was keeping it a secret from her,” and that didn’t bother her at all. They’ve earned each other’s trust, and so Shirayuki never felt like Zen was going behind her back, just like she wouldn’t expect him to think that about her, either.

I’ve talked before about how Zen, for all that he’s a thoughtful, kind person who respects others and does his best to acknowledge their agency, does have a tendency to go into Fairy Tale Prince Mode sometimes. But part of the charm of Snow White is that it always gently shuts him down, steering him away from the active prince/passive princess tale and back to a more balanced story of equals.

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So we see that here, in gracefully understated fashion, as Zen tries to frame it so that Shirayuki was “waiting” for him and she tells him that, no, it wasn’t that exactly. She wanted to go see him, and we’ve seen in the past that she’d do exactly that if she felt it necessary, but she had her work and he had his, and she had faith they’d be able to meet and talk later, when they were both ready to do so.

Most of this comes through in implications, but we know these characters well enough to read between the lines and understand them as individuals and as a couple. Shirayuki is never quite sure how to balance her own independence with her feelings for Zen, nor is she entirely certain of their future together, as she’s as aware of the gap in their social standing as the rest of the palace is. But she’s “happy he’s here with her now,” and that she’s able to explicitly tell him that is one of the great strengths of her and their relationship.

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Another great strength? Being able to melt the audience at will.

Snow White still feels like it’s building to a proper (albeit open-ended) finale, with two episodes to come and perhaps two tests for Shirayuki to face. She’ll need to decide if she wants to enter the courtly, political world she got a taste of in Tanbarun (good practice, that) in order to be with Zen, yes–but, as the Chief noted, she  may also have an herbalist test on the horizon, too. If this series can cap itself off with fulfilling conclusions to both the personal and professional sides of Shirayuki’s story, I’m not sure I could ask for much more.

This, That, and the Other

  • Massive thanks to Qtiepie Caps, whose gallery supplied all the screenshots except the cover image this week. The new Funimation app is giving me fits, and I’m not sure this post would have gone up at all if I hadn’t been able to find pics elsewhere. Once I have time to breathe I’ll go in and replace them with my own, but this’ll do in a pinch.
  • I wasn’t able to dig into imagery much this week, but I loved the two shots of the palace through wine and champagne glasses. The natural world (love matches) blocked out and distorted by society (political matches), perhaps?
  • Snow White does lots of great things with visuals, but it’s the little touches, like the shadow of birds flying past a window in Izana’s office, that really show how much care and attention goes into this thing.
  • “What are you doing?” “Work.” “Listening hard.” The Three Retainers should take their act on the road.
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